Tobacco control can save states big money

A San Francisco economist says states are being shortsighted by shifting tobacco control programs to cut spending because smoking cessation saves so much money.

Sudip Chattopadhyay of the San Francisco State University and David R. Pieper at University of California, Berkeley, said funding tobacco control programs at recommend levels could save 14 to 20 times more than the cost of implementing the programs.

The study, published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, said the costs of smoking are felt by the states, mostly through medical costs, Medicaid payments and lost productivity by workers. The researchers used data from 1991 to 2007, when states paid for the tobacco control programs with the help of the tobacco taxes, public and private initiatives and funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between the nation’s four largest tobacco companies and 46 states.

State tobacco control programs have a “sustained and steadily increasing long-run impact” on the demand for cigarettes, Chattopadhyay and Pieper said, but in tough economic times, many states have turned to tobacco control funds and taxes to help balance state budgets.

Funding has dropped since 2002 and states, on average, spent 17 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended levels in 2010 for smoking cessation, state smoke-free laws, regulating tobacco products and advertising.

“Almost all states are facing financial crisis, and they are really diverting their funds,” the researchers said in a statement. “If tobacco control funding was restored, states “would save money in terms of reduced Medicaid, and reduced medical and productivity costs — costs that are only going to go up.”

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